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Leverage or extortion? The politics of sports


You can usually tell how culturally hip someone is by the language they use. In a seminar one day I counted the number of times the presenter used the word leverage. In a thirty minute Power Point presentation he spoke it 21 times. It's one of the trendy buzz words of modern business and mission, a way to get things done. The wordsmiths at merriam-webster.com define leverage as---

1. influence or power used to achieve a desired result

2. the increase in force gained by using a lever

It's the stuff of business deals, getting your children to do their chores, accomplishing a desired end, moving the group you're leading to the next level, and yes, of course, politics. Learning the mechanics of quid pro quo (a favor or advantage granted or expected in return for something) is a curriculum must for skilled back room operatives. Yes, I know leverage is the stuff of life and is accepted as legal. But, sometimes it's nearness to extortion gives me the jitters.

So, what is extortion? Again, merrian-webster.com indicates that extortion is---

1. the crime of getting money from someone by the use of force or threats

Notice they've included the descriptive "crime" in their definition. And, I must suppose that somewhere in time the legal community has differentiated the fine lines between leverage and extortion, not to mention other dark side maneuvers like bribery and blackmail. Legalese surely marks the boundaries of each so that life and business and politics can happen outside litigious or criminal threat.

But, to a novice like me, and perhaps most working Americans, each of these terms---leverage, extortion, bribery, and blackmail--- are blood brothers. We wink and nod at the one, and call the police at the others. One is an accepted way to throw your weight around, dangle goodies in front of people you're trying to influence, and push the buttons to get what you need. The others draw a frown because they are illegal, the stuff of dark alleys, weapons, and threat. You expect it when a guy wearing a mask approaches you and asks for your watch and wallet. You don't expect it when the assailant is wearing a suit and the venue is a meeting of business or political elites.

So, leverage is the politics of sports too. Recent actions by the NCAA (the National Collegiate Athletic Association) and the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) to remove championship games from the state of North Carolina over HB2, The Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, in short, a bill requiring all people to use rest-room facilities assigned to their birth certificate gender regardless of their personal gender identification, is supposedly leverage aimed at the North Carolina legislative branch to reverse the law. Or, is it extortion? Or, bribery? Or, blackmail? Suddenly the mavens of sports, you know, the ranking commissioners and boards of governors and the players off the field are using leverage to superimpose their political views on everyone else. Or, is it extortion? Or, blackmail? Or, bribery?

Whatever, their threats are aimed at the pocket books of the North Carolina business community who stand to lose millions when these two sports entities move their championship games from the state because of their opposition to HB2. While in the limelight, these costs are estimated to escalate as large corporations and mega-business giants headquartered in North Carolina move their annual meetings away from the state. The Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau has received cancellations with an economic impact of more than $32.6 million. Some have projected annual losses of as much as $5 billion across the state.

Call it what you will, leverage if you prefer the business model, but this kind of action is more appropriate for hoods with their violin cases than suits with their brief cases. It is extortion of the people of North Carolina and their elected officials. Egregious as they appear, these moves are just a sample of a nationwide shift where the tail is wagging the dog in sports. Football teams hold their coaching staffs hostage to preferred treatment or team policy. Paid players dictate league and team governance because of their own political or cultural stands. Now the NCAA and ACC are dictating the will of the people in North Carolina. it's extortion with a big price tag.

And, it's immoral. Do a concordance search on the words extortion or bribery in your ESV Bible and see where extortioners and those guilty of bribery stand in Kingdom values. What is more, it is illegal. If what the NCAA and the ACC are doing was perpetuated on a local restaurant owner by the neighborhood gang they'd be charged with crimes associated with the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, RICO for short. It prohibits this kind of gang influence.

Now, the pressure is on in North Carolina. Already members of the NC House are petitioning Governor Pat McCrory to activate his political system to repeal this law. it will be a watershed case to mark how the new liberals will force their values on the rest of us. It won't happen on the ball fields or in the stands. And, it won't be organized crime hoods that extort us his way. It will be the academic elites in their doctoral hoods perpetuating this crime. They call it leverage in the ivy covered walls. Up at the big house, it's just extortion.

Shame.


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